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If you are wondering what to get Mom this year for Mother’s Day, I have reviewed several excellent books below from Andrews McMeel that would be ideal for gifts!

I think recipes are always best with a story accompanying them and that’s the very idea behind Sugar, Sugar: Every Recipe Has a Story. Authors Kimberly “Momma” Reiner, the founder of Momma Reiner’s Fudge, and Jenna Sanz-Agero, lead singer of “Vixen”, met in law school and together they run the website Sugar Sugar Recipes. These talented ladies have not only gathered classic dessert recipes, but you also get a heartwarming dose of the love behind the treats.

Sugar, Sugar is chock full of interesting tales like dressing up for fancy cookie exchanges, a neighbor who makes tea cakes to eat every day, and a couple’s mutual love of grasshopper pie, all of which add an enticing element to the already delicious sweets. Loving memories of grandmas cooking up their children’s and grandchildren’s favorites to nourish and comfort them are a common theme throughout the book. Sugar, Sugar: Every Recipe Has a Story is sure to get your mouth watering, with scrumptious delights like Lemon Starlets, Italian Love Cake and chocolate Church Windows, which are my favorite way to eat marshmallows! The chapters encompass everyone’s favorite sweet treats: cakes, pies, cookies, candy and readers are encouraged to submit their own treasured recipes along with the back story of why it’s so special to them.

Mary Engelbreit’s Fan Fare Cookbook is filled with homey recipes from Mary’s family, friends and fans. Mary tells us that although it is no secret that she’s not the chef in the family, she certainly appreciates good food, so she turned to her family, friends and fans to fill the Fan Fare Cookbook with tasty recipes. From appetizers to desserts, I loved going through all the selections and I especially enjoyed reading the comments about why this is a special recipe to the contributor.

Fan Fare is accented by Mary’s colorful and delightful drawings, which makes the Fan Fare Cookbook extra charming. There is a wide range of recipes, including oldies but goodies, such as Old Settler’s Beans or new trends, like the 5 Minute Mug Cake, perfect for “sudden chocolate cravings”. My favorite meal to make from Fan Fare is Beef Barley Soup, Pumpkin Bread and Lemon Squares for dessert. All of the recipes are delicious and I know many of them will be come my own family traditions, too!

Tessa Kiros married an Italian and they live in Tuscany and through Venezia: Food and Dreams she gives us a hands on tour of Venice though its local cuisine and beautiful architecture. She walks us through the culinary traditions of Venice with all kinds of helpful information, like how to make polenta both the slow and the fast ways. There are recipes for appetizers, pastas, sweets, and many variations of risotto, full of meats, seafood, veggies and squashes (which my husband made and it was excellent!), alongside advice like how to maintain your balance while standing in a gondola. Venezia: Food and Dreams is packed full of gorgeous photos of both the scrumptious foods of Venice, as well as the people and places that I would love to see in person!

I was born and raised in the big city, but I now live in a small town in a rural area and it is one of the best things that has ever happened to me. I like to think of myself as a country person now and I am so honored to do so. Heartland: The Cookbook, written by Judith Fertig, is a large coffee table style book that is overflowing with country recipes, as well as literary quotes and real life facts that celebrate the appeal of living the wonderful country life.

Heartland: The Cookbook starts with breakfast and leads right up to dessert, frequently stating what state or region of the Midwest that the recipe is popular in, which was a nice way to learn a little more about the area. Many of the recipes are popular throughout the entire Heartland and range from classic dishes to kicked up, modern versions of farm fare. Sunflowers, which are very commonly seen in growing in Kansas, are a main ingredient in Sunflower Cookie Brittle, a flat cookie that is pressed in a pan and baked, then broken into pieces like peanut brittle, and my kids love it for an after school snack! They also had a recipe for something that I’ve never made, but have been dying to try — a Fresh Pumpkin Pie. I guess I’ll have to wait until Fall and hope I get some good pumpkins this year!

From “Top Chef” to “Cupcake Wars,” my family loves watching food and cooking shows. And for busy families like ours, one of the most helpful cooking shows on television today is Robin Miller’s. And the show’s cookbook, Robin Takes 5: 500 Recipes, 5 Ingredients or Less, 500 Calories or Less, for 5 Nights/Week at 5:00 PM, has to be among the most helpful cookbooks as well. In it, she offers 500 recipes, with 5 ingredients or less (which are only 500 calories or less), for cooking 5 nights a week at 5 p.m. Further, it seems like many of the recipes take about 5 minutes to make as well. Yet they’re really flavorful, fun, and family-friendly.

For instance, the other night my family loved her “Lettuce Wraps with Grilled Steak and Cheese.” All you do is grill and slice a flank or skirt steak, then serve with butter lettuce leaves to wrap up a variety of toppings (to each his own), like a healthy taco, served Thai-style. It was a super fun way for a quick and delicious meal, that my family loved. Even those who still refer to salad as “bunny food.” And it was so fast! Plus, there are another 499 Asian, Italian, and homestyle recipes, just as easy to make in Robin Takes 5. Love!!

“The Amish Cook,” is a warm and delightful syndicated column which has been written by a mother and daughter of Old Order Amish for over twenty years. In The Amish Cook’s Anniversary Book: 20 Years of Food, Family, and Faith, Lovina Eicher’s recipes and columns offer anecdotes and insights which are as much personal journal entries as collections of her often informally-cited recipes. She will talk about the weather, a family gathering for a wedding or some-such, and talk about the foods they prepared, and what it all meant to them, living in the Good Lord’s graces. On Sunday, my family made her Baked French Toast recipe, which turned out delicious and creamy, with delicious flavors borrowed from cinnamon and brown sugar. So good! These homey and timeless recipes and stories from The Amish Cook’s Anniversary Book will warm your heart — and your stomach!

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